The Booktopia Book Guru asks
author of Mister Pip, Hand Me Down World and more
Ten Terrifying Questions
1.To begin with why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself – where were you born? Raised? Schooled?
Born in Lower Hutt, attended primary and high school in the Hutt, and Victoria University in Wellington.
2.What did you want to be when you were twelve, eighteen and thirty? And why?
I can’t recall wanting to be anything at the age of 12 or 18, although sport was a high priority. By 30 writing had become part of my life.
3.What strongly held belief did you have at eighteen that you do not have now?
4.What were three works of art – book, painting, piece of music, etc – you can now say, had a great effect on you and influenced your own development as a writer?
I like the story of Van Gogh never selling a single work in his life time. I think that’s quite a useful bit of information. It’s a good example of unwavering commitment. I don’t like the bit about his cutting off his ear. It’s a bit show-offy…unnecessary really and just silly. But this probably isn’t what you meant by asking after influences. Chocolate chip ice cream is up there in terms of form and capacity to surprise and enchant. I rate Kapiti raspberry white chocolate ice cream higher than anything produced by Damien Hirst…but not as high as ‘Hell’ produced by the Chapman brothers or the scene of the arrival at the death camp painted by Gerhard Richter.
5. Considering the innumerable artistic avenues open to you, why did you choose to write a novel?
Because the invitation is so generous and the form creates its own set of rules.
6. Please tell us about your latest novel, Hand Me Down World.
It is about a woman who sets off on a journey from North Africa to find her child in Berlin. For most of the novel ‘her’ story is told by those she comes into contact with. As she is handed on so is the story in a multiplicity of voices stretching from Tunisia to Italy. (BBGuru: here is how the Australian publisher puts it – A woman washes ashore in Sicily. She has come from north Africa to find her son, taken from her when he was just days old by his father and stolen away to Berlin. With nothing but her maid’s uniform and a knife stashed in a plastic bag, she relies on strangers— some generous, some exploiting—to guide her passage north.
These strangers tell of their encounters with a quiet, mysterious woman in a blue coat—each account a different view of the truth, a different truth. And slowly these fragments of a life piece together to create a spellbinding story of the courage of a mother and the versions of truth we create to accommodate our lives.
Haunting and beautiful, Hand Me Down World is simply unforgettable.)
Enjoyment, I hope; engagement of one kind or another. Beyond that – which is a lot – I wouldn’t like to promise more. I never tell readers what they will find. A novel should offer the same reward as a treasure chest. You plunge in without knowing in advance what you will take out of it.
8. Whom do you most admire in the realm of writing and why?
Oh, the usual rollcall of writers… More locally, I admire the writer James McNeish. He’s kept the faith for a long time. I admire his level of engagement with the world and his dedication to the need to respond and in a variety of ways – stories, memoir, journalism. For the same reasons I admire the work of the late Rysard Kapucinski. There are some poets whose imaginative reach and daring I admire – such as Canadian Anne Carson. Seamus Heaney‘s essays are as impressive as his poems. The surface play and musicality of Bill Manhire‘s poems also reward closer attention.
It’s a secret.
10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?
Failure is good. Learn to embrace it as a possibility. Otherwise you won’t ever take the risks that are necessary to producing something that is startling and new.
Lloyd, thank you for playing.
Books by Lloyd Jones: Continue reading